March 11, 2023

Back Home

The ship is secured at the dock before 5:00 AM. My scheduled departure is at 7:30 with wheelchair assist. We arrive in plenty of time. There are about 20 passengers waiting. I am one of the first to depart. The wheelchair is in very poor condition.

By 8:00 we are sitting on the shuttle bus ready to head to the parking lot. Just as we are about to leave a passenger gets off the bus in an attempt to find her traveling companions.  The bus driver asks her to get back on the bus, he is ignored and leaves without her, but with her luggage and the luggage of her friends. Too bad. Why would you board a bus when the rest of your party isn't even there?

After a quick stop at WalMart I am home by 10 AM. By 1:00 all the laundry is done and I return myself to a land locked life. Mail to sort, emails to deal with, prescriptions to order etc.

I think I need to spend some time looking for some other cruises. No, not need to, WILL!

Day 8, Coco Cay

During the night the seas calm as the captain had predicted. When we dock at Coco Cay, the seas are flat, the skies sunny, and the air temperature a cool 70 degrees. A Norwegian ship can be seen at their private island a mile or so distant, tendering passengers to shore much as Royal did years ago before making a very large investment in building up Coco Cay to what it is today. Bars, cabanas, fresh water pools, restaurants, a water park, a tethered ballon ride and dozens of water activities to spend your money on.

I learn that Pann and Terry spent four and a half hours in the medical center after they abruptly left during the show.  Some of the classic signs of a heart attack, but the medical staff assured Pann it was not a cardiac event but just rib cage inflamation. Certainly relieved, and knowing they made the right decsion last night, she will follow up with her own doctors when she returns to Ohio.

We are the only ship here with about 2500 passengers. The last time I visited Coco Cay I think there were two ships with a combined ten or twelve thousand passengers. We wait until most passengers have gone ashore, exit the gangway and board a shuttle tram within seconds. The driver asks where we would like to go. Oh just to the tram terminal and we will take a tour around the island. Well the important part of that registered. He drops his other passengers and then proceeded to give us a narrated tour of the entire island. A frw tidbits. 500 local residents live and work on the island. Their contracts are usually 3 months and then a months vacation. All he does is drive a tram, every day. Shared housing is provided, much as berths on a ship are for the workers. He has been doing this for 4 years, Nassau is his home.

He takes us back to the ship and drops us off at the gangway. One of my more enjoyable visits to Coco Cay. Paved walkways are limited, and I find it very difficult to walk in the sand. From the ship we watch the balloon make one ascent. Not many paying passengers today.

I decide to splurge on a tenderloin steak for dinner in the dining room. The upcharge is probably only about a third of the cost for the same steak in Chops.  Honestly, not worth it. Most butchers would have used that piece of the tenderloin for hamburger meat not a steak.

No show tonight, just packing. Our expected arrival back in Port Canaveral is about 4:00 AM.

March 10, 2023

Day 7, A Sea Day

The skies remain clear and sunny. The temperatures are expected to be in the low 70's for most of the day. The seas are running 12 to 15 feet with large swells hitting our starboard bow.

Apparent winds across the deck are 45 to 50 mph. Pretty brisk to be outside. The solarum pool has been drained for safety reasons, the water was sloshing out and flooding the solarium deck. Spray from the waves keeps the outside walking area on deck 5 starboard side very wet.

The main pool remains open, but few dare go in it.  Three very young children, at least wearing life jackets, attempt to enter but are chased back by the sloshing water. Where any parent was is a mystery. I think eventually the lifeguard told them to leave the pool area but not sure.

Adrienne and Steve had bid up to a Grand Suite. The coffee pot did work, but was replaced. The replacement's cord was too short to reach the outlet and had the wrong type of electrical plug. When they finally got it to work, it only produced about an ounce of coffee. The drain for the tub broke when an attemt was made to open it.

With the more active seas, the sliding doors to the balcony would first open and then slam closed. The bathroom door would swing wildly, and cupboard doors and drawers would open and close. They laughed and chaulked it up to a unique experience. There was a conversation with the concierge host to arrange repairs.

The Pinnacle cruisers are  served a very nice lunch in the main dining room. I have the turf without the surf.  The tenderloin was perfect, one of the best meals of the cruise.  The few lobsters that were served looked quite large. There are 29 Pinnacle members on this cruise, I think everyone attended the luncheon. The captain and the other officers said a few words but did not join us for lunch as they have in years past.

I had often wondered, but had never heard, a fellow passenger relates that there are now just over 8000 Pinnacle members world wide in the Crown and Anchor Society, Royal's loyalty program. Since members are never dropped, I can only guess that the active number count is probably substantially less.

The seas are expected to remain the same until about midnight when we reach the west side of the Bahamian islands.

With lobster being served in the main dinng room tonight, they are way behind in seating my time dining guests. To the astonishment of us and our regular waiter and assistant waiter we are seated at a different table on the far side of the dining room. Three in our group have the lobster, myself and the others have a cheese tortellini dish.

We gather in the Vortex lounge, or Crown Lounge as it was formerly known, for an after dinner drink and to await the start of the production show. Much to my amazement the bar is rotating. I probably haven't seen the bar rotate on any Royal ship in over 10 years even though many were so designed. They have either been turned off, or broken.

But it didn't last long, by the time we left, it was stuck and the bartender was trapped in the center.

The production show was a tribute to West End and Broadway shows. Not spectacular, but OK. Unexpectedly about 5 minutes before the conclusion Pann and Terry leave without a word. 

The seas are begining to calm as the captain had predicted. Tomorrow we will be at Coco Cay, and fortunately the only ship there. I may actually venture off the ship.

March 09, 2023

Day 6, St Croix, USVI

Passengers are already disembrking the ship before I even head to breakfast. St Croix is probably the least spoiled of any islands that cruise ships stop at in the Caribbean. Any shore excursions that we would have an interest in have been sold out for weeks, probably since before we booked this cruise.

I elect to stay on the ship, others are going to walk into town for a little sight seeing and probably a beer. The water here is very clean, many turtles and fish can be seen beside the pier. Diving and snorkeling are popular activites.

Today is another day of practice for the crew. A fire to extinguish, flooding in an engine room compartment, and loading of some of the life rafts. All a drill of course, but the more they practice the better and easier it will be when it is for real. Fortunately it has been years since I have been on a ship with an emergency.  That was a fire in the laundry room directly under the theater. I shouldn't tell you that many passengers refused to leave when they were told to evacuate. They insisted it was just part of the show. Of course the fact that the show was halted, the curtains drawn and the house lights turned up before the announcement was made several times from the stage didn't seem unusual to them. Anyway I digress.

It is a short stay in St Croix and we are underway at our scheduled departure of 2:00 PM.  Yesterday we were missing 2 passengers in St Marteen, I don't know for sure whether they eventually made it to the ship or were left there. Everyone is accounted for today.

As we leave, the seas are almost as flat as glass. The captain tells us to enjoy ourslves as the seas will be increasing over the next day and a half, partly from strong NorthEast winds, and partly because of a very strong storm in the Atlantic east  of new england producing 30 foot swells which travel unimpeded towards the Caribbean.

Several humpback whales are spotted  by a few passengers mid afternoon. They migrate thru this area this time of year.

There is a georgous sunset today, with some passengers catching the elusive green flash as the sun sets over the horizon. The seas continue to build as the captain predicted, and by dinnertime sloshing of liquid in your beverage glass is apparent. It is prudent to watch where you walk, and be prepared to grab a handrail should the ship suddenly roll to port while you are expecting it to go to starboard. Stabilizers greatly reduce the roll,  but impart more sudden unexpected movements to  the ship.

The show tonight is a couple of comedians. Not bad, just plain fun, they were enjoyable.

By bedtime the ship  is rolling and pitching a fair amount. Most passengers are having no difficulty walking, some are beginning to complain while others are enjoying the feel of actually being at sea.

Tomorrow we will be at sea all day as we head to Coco Cay, Royal's private island in the Bahamas. The skies remain clear, and the temperatures in the lower 70's.

Day 5 Phillipsburg, St Maarten

We arrive and are cleared to disembark by 10 AM. There is a plan to meet at The Lazy Lizzard 2 for lunch. But first a little background is appropriate.

Nik had owned and operated The Lazy Lizzard for many years until the facility was destroyed by a hurricane and the ensuing looting. I would visit every time I was in St Maarten to have a few adult beverages and often lunch. Devastated at his loss Nik floundered for a few years including a 3 month stint in central Florida before deciding his true passion was the bar and restaurant business.

This year he decided to reopen, not far from his old location. With a temporary sign, and a half decorated space, he started a soft opening this past week. Many of his previous staff have returned, but today he is without a chef.

It has been several years since I took the water taxi in St Marteen. Today I took the wrong one. There is a large one which only goes to the two larger docks along the beach, and a smaller one which also goes to the marina dock where I wished to go.  I get off as close as I can to where I think the new restaurant is. I thought I should walk to the right, but Google maps keeps telling me to go to the left. A quarter mile later and I know Google maps is wrong and turn around.

Eventually we  make it to the new location. Had I taken  the correct water taxi it would have been a few hundred feet instead of a mile or so.

It is good to see Nik, a cold Diet Coke is the first order of business.  Adrienne and Steve have been waiting for us since I boarded the wrong ferry. Pann and Terry have been at the beach and soon join us for lunch.

Steve helps Nik get the location corrected on Google. Several rounds and we order lunch.

After a large basket of BBQ chicken wings and the hottest fries I have had in months we head back to the ship. A short walk to the correct water taxi, hop on the  boat, walk 25 yards and get on the shuttle to return the the ship. The shuttle drops us off at the gangway and we are back at our temporary home mere minutes after leaving The Lazy Lizzard 2.

A TUI ship is at the next pier, much larger than us, probably came form Europe. Royal previously had  an interest in TUI, but divested that interest several years ago.

The usual cocktails in the concierge lounge and dinner in the dining room. I have yet to see the lounge at capacity, a good thing for the passengers as we can always find seating.

The seas are very slight as we depart St Marten heading to St. Croix.

The show tonight is "Tango Buenos Aires". An excellent performance performed to a nearly full theater.

By bedtime the seas have picked up slightly, the skies remain clear and the temperatures a balmy high 70's.

March 08, 2023

Day 4 San Juan, Puerto Rico

The seas remain slight, the skies clear to partly cloudy and temperatures around 80 as we head south easterly toward San Juan, Puerto Rico. Our expected arrival time is 2:30 PM.

Chops is fairly busy this morning. There are not a lot of children on this cruise, but one very bratty 5 year old seems to appear everywhere I go.  Today she grabs several knives off the table and challenges her younger sibling to a sword fight. Knives clash... The baseball capped father ignores them.

The ship arrives and is cleared about 30 minutes early. There is one other ship in port.

Lynn takes a shore excursion, the others go ashore to visit a brewery. The reports are excellent, everyone had a good time. I stayed on  the ship and took the opportunity to write and answer emails form the real  world.

I can't say that this is the problem, but this ship switched to Star Link recently for internet service. When it works, it appears to work OK, but keep in mind my heaviest usage is retrival of a handful of emails, not exactly a demanding application.  The annoying issue is the the internet connection drops frequently,  but fortunately reconnects within a few minutes.

RCCL chat app has its own issues. Sometimes it takes 30 minutes or more for a sent message to appear. More annoying I get the impression they use a random number generator to attach the time stamp.  The time stamp has little relation to the actual time sent. Oh well....

Many guests spend the evening ashore, and the dining room is not very busy tonight. No  show, just a movie. Many of the wait staff are wearing exactly the same tropical shirt as I choose tonight. We all have good taste.

I retire before our 10:00 PM departure time. The skies remain clear, the seas slight. Tomorrow we are headed to Phillipsburg, St Maarten.

Day 3 Labadee, Haiti

Labadee is another private island owned by Royal Caribbean. We arrive before 8:00 and most of the passengers depart the ship to spend the day in the sun and sand. Lynn and I stay on the ship, the others head to the beach.

Today is life boat training day. Many of the lifeboats are launched and the crew practices loading, launching and driving them. The exercise concludes without incident.

I don't know what the specific cause is, but cigarette smoke from the casino manages to finds its way into many areas of the ship where it shouldn't be. The balcony of the Theater, and throughout the Centrum on nearly all decks for example. I have been on this ship before and don't remember this being an issue in the past. It is almost like the exhaust fans for the casino area have been turned off or are not functioning for some reason.

Speaking of the casino, one of my favorite venues on Oasis class ships, Jazz on Four, is being converted into non smoking casino space. So much for live Jazz music.

All aboard is 3:30. I spend some time at the railing on deck five and watch the lobsters return to the ship. About 1 in 10 returning passengers are visibly very bady burned. Some on large areas of skin, others where it is obvious that they missed a spot with the sun screen.

We all gather in the Diamond lounge before heading to the dining room. Cheese sticks are excellent again and are consumed rapidly by the guests. Beverage service is slow because servers don't have a bar here, but have to go to a nearby bar to fill orders. Guests are supposed to sign all drink purchase tickets. This is the first time I have been asked.

Only a slight delay to get our dinner table. While waiting for dinner to arrive we learn that our assistant waiter is the same man that was our assistant waiter on the Brilliance of The Seas in March of 2022. He not only remembers the six of us together, but the table that we were seated at. Keep in mind that this was the Cruise where I contracted Covid so we only went to the dining room four times.  I can only dream about having such a good memory.

The entertainment tonight is the Las Vegas Tenors. Three gentlemen with excellent voices. They sang a variety of songs ranging from the 50's to today, most of which I didn't know. Unlike most performers, their second show of the evening was mostly new material that they did not include in the first show.

Tonight we put our clocks ahead an hour. The seas are slight with nearly a full moon almost directly over the ship. We  head towards San Juan, Puerto Rica at about 18 knots with an expected arrival at 2:30 PM.

March 06, 2023

Day 2, March 4, 2023 at sea

We are headed southerly in the Atlantic towards Labadee, Haiti The seas are still about 6 feet  but are expected to drop throughout the next 24 hours. There are some clouds, but basically the skies are sunny.

Breakfast in Chops is the first order of business. I order buttermilk pancakes. A little tough and barely warm enough to melt soft butter. The Jewel being a smaller ship does not have a Coastal Kitchen for the Suites passengers so both Pinnacle guests and Suite guests may avail themselves of Chops for breakfast.

A magician,  whom I assume will be doing a show later in the cruise, holds a class in the Centrum on how to perform some card tricks. Well attended by many, the children especially.

The Jewel is about 20 years old and one of the smaller ships in Royal's fleet holding about 2500 passengers.  No giant water slides here for kids, most of the manifest is more mature passengers.

The pool deck is quite busy with many working on future skin cancer. Nearing the peak of the day there is an "accident" in the main pool. I can only assume an accident of biological nature not physical nature. The pool must be drained, cleaned, and refilled. The only issue is where the ship is located.  Water can not be discharged, and water can not be taken from the ocean. A slight diversion in course and slowing the ship to 10 knots solves the location problem. The pool is expected to be in operation by 2:00, delaying some of the pool activities by a few hours.

Again both the Diamond Lounge and the Concierge Lounge have plenty of seating when happy hour starts at 5:00. Tonight is a formal night, one of two on this voyage. Most passengers are appropriately dressed. We stop for a few pictures on our way to the lounge.

The dining room is a madhouse when we arrive at 6:45. We are diverted to a waiting area as no tables are available. We are called within a few minutes  and tell our waiter we would like to make the 8:00 show.  He hustles and we make it.

Tonight was one of those menues with 4 or 5 excellent choices. I settle on the chicken condon blu. Except for the serving size being way too large at about 12 oz, it was excellent.

The production show was, well a production show. Not bad, nothing special. It wouldn't surprise me if the show has been playing here since the ship was launched in 2004. The theater was nearly full, and most significantly the seating very comfortable, unlike that on most of the newer ships.

After the show we are entertained in "The Suite" with Adrienne's stories and Terry and Steve's jokes.

While cleaning of your cabin historically has been done twice a day, now it is only once a day, but you have the option of morning or night. Our cabin is made up in the evening while we are always at dinner. Tonight there definitely was an elephant in the cabin. A towel elephant that is. The obvious driver of this is labor cost. Our cabin steward is responsible for 32 cabins. I remember many years ago when they were expected to service four.

The seas  have calmed to about 3 feet, and the skies mostly overcast. Except for our slight diversion to deal with the pool issue we cruise at about 20 knots.

Our expected arrival at Labadee is 8:00 AM

March 05, 2023

March 1, 2023 - Day 1 on The Jewel of The Seas

The past several weeks at home have been very busy. The weather at home in Florida has been its normal dry for February, but abnormally warm with many records being set.

There are six of us traveling on this cruise together, Lynn and I, My daughter Adrienne and her husband Steve, and Pann and Terry, friends from Ohio. To save the $100 cost of parking for a second car, we are all riding together.

Scheduled departure time is 9:00 am. We are ready and waiting outside. Steve manages to get all the luggage in the back. A quick stop to pick up Terry after he returned his rental car, and another stop at the eye doctor to get Steve's contact lens.

We are on our way. A severe accident has closed the Northbound lanes of the turnpike, fortunately the Southbound lanes are flowing freely.

After  the usual quick stop at McDonalds we get to the parking lot and immediately get on the shuttle bus to the terminal.  Being the smaller of the two RCCL ships in port, we are relegated to one of the old terminals.

The process is quick and efficient. We agree to meet in the Windjammer for lunch while waiting for our cabins.

We all purchased guaranteed cabins for this trip, a practice I basically abandoned many years ago.  In hind sight maybe I should have this time. We are located about 4 doors from the extreme aft of the ship on deck 9. Adrienne and Steve are located right above the Schooner bar on deck 6. Pann and Terry have a decent cabin location on deck 9.

About 3 weeks ago Adrienne offers to swap with me so I will be closer to the elevator. I never reply as I also don't want to be right above the Schooner bar as it can be quite noisey late into the night. Unknown to me Adrienne had bid on an upgrade to a grand suite and got it. Now she refused to accept my agreement  to swap cabins with her. I don't blame her, but she will be reminded of her earlier offer.

Lunch was edible, my weiner snitzel actually quite good. All gathered in the Windjammer we spend the next hour trying to figure out how to use Royal's chat app which permits chatting with other guests on the ship without going thru the internet. There used to be a daily charge, but it now is free to all guests. I am sure anybody watching and hearing us found the whole process quite entertaining. By the time we left, I think everyone successfully sent one useless message to someone else in our party.

Cabins were ready just before 2. Our luggage already had arrived so unpacking was the next order of business, shortly followed  by a visit to the "Grand Suite". 

We were instructed to ring the door bell on arrival.  About twice the size of a normal cabin with a thickly padded lounge chair on the balcony in addition to a table and 4 chairs.

A large bathroom with tub and shower, plenty of storage space, and lots of room to walk around. Now I am glad, no I should correct that and say everyone should be glad that I had not swapped cabins.  The shower was in the tub, and the side so high that there way no way I could safely get in and out to shower. I imagine after a week I would be pretty ripe with no shower access.

A few cocktails and appetizers in the concierge lounge. Surprisingly there were a few empty tables. The appetizers were hot and tasty. Some of the best in a long time.

We did get our dinner reservations consolidated to 6:45 every night. Nothing new on the menu. I choose spaghetti bolognese.  Simple but good. The pasta was prepared just right. The accompanying rolls very fresh but absent were bread sticks. Savory bites are more rare as the waiter had no idea what we were asking about.

Dinner finishes too late for the early  show, and there is no way I can stay up for the 10:00 PM show. I pass on the comedian and call it a night.

The seas are about 6 to 7 feet which is just enough to impart a little motion onto the ship. The skies are partly cloudy with little chance of rain. We are headed almost directly into a brisk southernly breeze.

Tomorrow is a sea day as we head to Labadee, Haiti, another of Royal's private islands.